BIOCH 399 - Honors Seminar in Science and Society

 

This course is intended for honors students from any major or college. Broadly speaking the course is about the role of science in society. We will ask: When does society at large (or when do individuals) pay attention to the results of science -- and when does society (or do individuals) ignore the results of science? And, of course, in any case, why? To a large extent we will choose specific topics as a class -- students and instructor working together in the first couple of class sessions. To get us going, however, I've chosen a rather simple topic, namely, whether aspartame, the artificial sweetener, is dangerous to the public at large and not just to phenylketonuric individuals. I hope the class will want to investigate, during the semester, the question of whether "race" (in the human species) is a valid biological concept or not. Either individually or collectively, we should certainly address modern genetic research on humans -- and perhaps Neanderthals (!) -- and the prospects for genetic manipulation of humans, for instance, in the form of gene therapy for genetically based diseases.

This is a discussion course, based on students' reading and research. The principal requirement, beyond active participation in class discussion, is a term paper, written in two versions The second version is written after getting comments, on the first version, from the instructor and from fellow students. Each student selects their own term-paper topic, in consultation with the instructor. There are no exams.